HARTFORD, Conn. – The Eastern Connecticut State University women's basketball team avenged last year's 20-point loss at the hands of Trinity College by shooting 80 percent from the foul line and outscoring the Bantams by 14 from the stripe in a 77-67 victory in the season-opener for both schools in the opening round of the Trinity College Tip-Off Tournament Friday night at Ray Oosting Gymasium.
Eastern had dropped a 20-point decision to Trinity – a winner of its first nine games and 19 overall on the season a year ago -- in the championship game of last year's Trinity Tip-Off. Friday, the teams were tied at each of the first three stops before the Warriors used a 26-point fourth quarter to post their 13th win over Trinity in the 16-game series dating back to 1974-75.
Eastern plays Saturday in the 3 p.m. championship game against Springfield College (3-0), which broke from a halftime tie for a 59-49 win over Montclair State University.
In the fourth quarter, Eastern was 14-of-18 from the stripe and sank 55.6 percent of its nine field goals in scoring 26 points, while the hosts missed 13 of 20 field goals. Over those final ten minutes, senior guard Lizzy Cretella (Cheshire) and senior forward Mya Villard (Cromwell) evenly split 16 of the team's points, and six-foot sophomore forward Anna Barry (Andover) added four rebounds and a blocked shot.
Last year's Little East Conference tournament champions, Eastern trailed by five with just over five minutes left but outscored the Bantams 20-5 the rest of the way, scoring its final 11 points on 14 free throw attempts over the final 2:15. Villard was 4-of-4 and Cretella 3-of-4 in that final stretch, with Barry and senior guard Sabrina LeMere (North Branford) hitting two each.
Cretella's only three-point field goal of the game with just under three minutes left gave Eastern the lead for good, 66-64. Barry and Cretella then each splashed two free throws around a steal by Cretella that made it 70-64 with under two minutes left.
In scoring only five points after leading by five, Trinity missed eight of ten field goals and three of four free throws.
In a game featuring nine ties and seven lead changes, Trinity led by eight six minutes into the game. Eastern cut the gap to three after the first stop, pulled even on Barry's bucket with three minutes left in the first half, and overtook Trinity on sophomore Jenna Serrantino's (Cromwell) three-point play off an offensive rebound early in the second half.
Eastern outscored Trinity's bench by 16 points, with LeMere scoring ten and added four assists in 15 minutes off the bench. She was 6-of-6 from the stripe and converted both of her field goal tries.
Villard led four Eastern double-figure scorers with a game-high 22 points (12-of-13 from the four line) and grabbed six rebounds. Serrantino had 14 points and four rebounds, Cretella 12 points and four rebounds. In 31 minutes off the bench, Barry had eight points, a game-high nine rebounds, four blocks and two assists. In her first career start, sophomore forward Aiyana Ward (Waterbury) pulled down six rebounds and had four points in 16 minutes.
Peace Kabari, Trinity's top returning scorer, led Trinity with 17 points and eight rebounds.